Salt Resources

Read and pass along WI Salt Wise brochures - Homeowners Handout

Salt Goes Beyond the Pavement

Using more salt doesn't make your sidewalks safer — it harms plants and animals, pollutes our water, damages buildings and corrodes vehicles, roads and bridges. Once you put salt down, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it travels into our lakes and streams, putting our aquatic life at risk and endangering our freshwater resources. Salt also alters the composition of soil, slows plant growth and weakens the concrete, brick and stone that make up your home and garage. Using the right amount of salt maximizes your family’s safety.

1 pound
of salt =


fits in a 12
ounce coffee mug
and is enough
to treat a 20-foot driveway
or 10 sidewalk squares.

Hand spreaders are helpful, but if you don't have one, aim for a pattern like this.



Salting for Safety

It’s understandable that you want to keep your home safe, especially when winter weather hits. Fortunately, there are ways you can improve your salt use and safety:

  • Pre-treat walkways with a small amount of liquid deicer before the storm hits to prevent snow and ice from building up. Dissolve salt in warm water until salt no longer dissolves (or take some from your water softener brine tank), and apply it with a watering can. Learn how to make a brine. Or dissolve salt in warm water until the salt no longer dissolves (or take some from your water softener tank) and apply with a watering can.
  • Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice. The more snow you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
  • Only use deicers in critical areas and apply the least amount necessary. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet), or, as a general rule, just use less salt than you did last year. One twelve-ounce container is sufficient to salt sixty to seventy feet of sidewalk.
  • Check your water softener, if it uses more than 1 bag of salt per month, have a professional tune it up or replace it with a high efficiency model.  Visit http://www.madsewer.org/Programs-Initiatives/Chloride-Reduction for more information. 
Here are some more helpful hints:
  • At temperatures below 15 ° Fahrenheit, salt becomes ineffective. Consider using sand instead for traction.
  • Buy the right product for deicing. Look at product labels for specific ingredients + temperature ranges.
  • Store ice melting products in airtight containers to maintain maximum effectiveness.
  • Watch a homeowner tips video.
  • Educate yourself through online resources. See the links below
  • Read and pass along WI Salt Wise brochures.
  • When your pet comes in from being outside, wipe his or her paws and underside to prevent the salt from hurting their skin.
  • Wear boots or shoes with good traction so you can walk safely to your destination.

Our current practices are not sustainable; our wetlands, streams and ponds have already reached toxic levels. Road salt has been used as a deicer on streets in the Dane County region since the late 1950s, and over the last 50 years, average lake water concentrations have steadily increased — in Lake Mendota, salt concentrations increase about 1 mg/L each year. If that rate continues, the waters will eventually taste salty and exceed toxic concentrations for aquatic life.

Hiring an Applicator /
Snow Removal Service

  • Discuss expectations with your applicator. Let them know you are WI Salt Wise!
  • Many local applicators have been trained in winter maintenance practices that reduce environmental impact. Assess their awareness.
  • Mechanical removal (shovel/plow) is more effective and safer than excess chemicals, so confirm their procedures and make sure they’re using mechanical means first.
  • The right amount of deicing chemicals (one to four pounds per 1000 square feet) can be effective for ice. Determine what equipment they use and how they calibrate it.
  • Deicing chemicals work differently with different pavement temperatures and weather forecasts — discuss their protocols.
  • Communication can protect your surfaces, wallet and water. Alert your applicator when too much salt has been applied.